JACKSON – An Election Day sweep by a bipartisan ticket led by Democrat Michael Kafton propelled citizens to the microphone at a Thursday night council meeting to complain about Mayor Mark Seda’s efforts to privatize the city’s building department.
At the head of the charge was the newly victorious Kafton, who called on Attorney General Anne Milgram to investigate Seda’s efforts even as the mayor’s father faces a $30,000 building department fine.
He also chastised the council for failing to join him.
"The council is either closing their eyes or not strong enough to stand up to him (Seda)," said the councilman-elect and former mayor. "I demanded the council get to the attorney general’s office."
Seda, whose three allies lost by a large margin on Tuesday to Kafton and his running mates, was not present at the meeting.
Today, the mayor wouldn’t acknowledge that he personally did anything to contribute to Tuesday losses suffered by Councilwoman Emily Ingram and her running mates, Charles Garafano and Todd Porter.
"Throughout the state there was a vote against incumbents," said Seda. "They (Ingram and her team) worked pretty hard and unfortunately they lost. The people I supported lost. It doesn’t change anything in Jackson. I congratulated the winners. I let them know I’m willing to work with them."
Kafton suggested Seda’s days are numbered on the Jackson Township dais, along with his council allies and town attorney George Gilmore, chair of the Ocean County Republican Party.
"The election was definitely about Seda and his administration," said the councilman-elect. "The council allowed Seda to wreak havoc on this town, and therefore is equally guilty."
As part of his campaign against Ingram, Porter and Garafano, Kafton repeatedly hit the mayor for failing to spray gypsy moths, giving himself a hefty pay raise, and raising taxes.
But he lingered post Election Day on his charge of a conflict-of-interest the mayor has with the building department.
The mayor said Kafton continues to confuse politics and government.
"Mr. Kafton’s on a witch hunt," Seda complained. "He’s completely irresponsible. He’ll say anything to get elected. He got elected because he ran a negative campaign against me. This is not a popularity contest. In the real world, no one could produce that much rhetoric without producing a product."
The mayor denied the conflict-of-interest charge, pointing out that the building department has a deficit of close to $1 million, created in no small part by an economic downturn over the past two and a half years.
Seda said part of his design in privatizing the department is to make the building process less punishing for residents – not developers – and not specifically for his father.
"If my father is left with any fines, he will have to pay them," Seda said. "If he does not come into compliance, just like any other resident, he will pay those fines. The point is we’re not looking to make anyone’s life miserable."
Kafton hinted that a petition may start circulating in town to recall Seda, which would require the signatures of 20% or approximately 7,500 registered voters.
"If the residents would like to see me leave, I don’t have a problem with that," said the mayor, who has served two of his four-year term. "I don’t want to leave. It’s unfortunate if that comes to fruition. I haven’t heard of a recall petition. If people have a lot of faith in what Mike Kafton says, then maybe he should have the job. But you have to be careful of what you wish for."
Although Kafton won on Tuesday, he was not the top vote-getter. That distinction belonged to his running mate, Mike Reina,the lone, self-described independentRepublican on Kafton's bipartisan team, who got 200 more votes than his Democratic ticket-mate.
"Obvously in this election, theyspent $200,000 attacking my name," said Kafton."They didn’t attack my two running mates.Mike Reina obviously received acertain number of Republican votes that Mike Kaftoncannot get."